Dallas: Gary Densham preview

Densham's quest for NHRA Record moves this week to the Motorplex Team Castrol driver has been close to milestone in last two events ENNIS, Texas (Oct. 10-12) 0x2022 The quickest and fastest Funny Car on the NHRA POWERade tour right now is ...

Densham's quest for NHRA Record moves this week to the Motorplex

Team Castrol driver has been close to milestone in last two events

ENNIS, Texas (Oct. 10-12) 0x2022 The quickest and fastest Funny Car on the NHRA POWERade tour right now is neither the Castrol SYNTEC0 Ford Mustang driven by points leader Tony Pedregon nor the Dodge driven by principal contender Whit Bazemore.

It's not even 12-time champion John Force's Castrol GTX Mileage Ford, the hybrid in which the 108-time tour winner set the official record of 4.721 seconds last May.

Nope. When the NHRA pros move this week to Billy Meyer's Texas Motorplex for the 18th annual O'Reilly Fall Nationals, the car most closely watched will be the Team Castrol/Automobile Club of Southern California Ford driven by journeyman Gary Densham.

Without a doubt, the blue-and-white Mustang prepared by Crew Chief Jimmy Prock is the baddest hombre in the category and, as such, icould play a key role in determining who will succeed Force as series champion, ending the 11-time Auto Racing All-American's streak of 10 consecutive titles.

While Pedregon tries to win for the eighth time this season in a class in which no one else has won more than three races, Densham and Prock are focused on the record. Why? Well, for one thing, there's the prestige. For another, if Densham can take the record even lower, it lessens the chance that Bazemore can set a new standard and claim the 20 bonus points that come with it.

"Obviously, we want to set the record to show that we've got the baddest hot rod around," Densham said, "but if we can help Tony in the process, then it's all good."

Densham/Motorplex 2222

The 56-year-old former high school auto shop teacher has been very close to the record each of the last two weeks.

At Joliet, Ill., he just missed with quarter mile clockings of 4.723 and 4.728 seconds, the second and fifth quickest times in Funny Car history. Last week at Reading, Pa., he posted a 4.749 second qualifying time that delivered his sixth Budweiser No. 1 qualifier bonus check.

Of those three runs, the quickest of Densham's 31-year career, it is the 4.728 about which the six-time tour winner can't stop talking.

"I didn't want to shut it off," Densham said. "I knew that run was once-in-a-lifetime. The fuse was just a little too short, I guess. I could've been the first guy in the 60s (the first to break the 4.70 second barrier)."

Indeed, Densham's incremental times on the 4.728 second effort were the quickest in history at 330 (2.262 seconds), 660 (3.224 seconds) and 1,000 feet (4.020 seconds). His speed was the fastest ever at half track (264.18 mph).

A finish line speed of "only" 299.13 miles per hour (27 mph off his career best) indicated the deceleration that probably cost him a piece of history. However, had the veteran not aborted the run when he did, it's likely that the Auto Club Ford would have crossed the center line, negating the run altogether.

Fourth in the current point standings, the same position in which he finished the 2002 campaign, the 56-year-old Californian knows that, given favorable weather conditions, a 4.60 certainly isn't out of the question at the Motorplex, a track on which Force broke the 4.80 second barrier five years ago.

"Right now, the way Jimmy has this car running, anything's possible," Densham said.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Gary Densham